Willpower

Willpower

By Victoria L. Smalley

May 2019

Better said, the “power of a Will.” As an estate planning attorney I am constantly reminded of the importance of a comprehensive and up-to-date estate plan when families come into my office with a mess on their hands following the passing of a parent who did no estate planning prior to their death. While many of us were surprised to learn of several prominent people passing away without a Will (Martin Luther King, Jr., Prince, and most recently Aretha Franklin), the truth is, according to a 2015 Rocket Lawyer survey, half of Americans aged 55-64 do not have even a basic Will.
Whether it is a lack of education or difficulty with the topic matter, it is no surprise estate planning often gets pushed to the back burner. Unfortunately, dying without a Will can create unintended delay, expense, and frustration in administrating an estate. Without a Will, a person has no control over who will petition the Probate Court to open an estate and be appointed the Personal Representative. Without a Will, distribution of assets will pass according to Michigan’s intestate succession laws. Worst case scenario, when there is no Will and no heirs to receive under intestate succession laws, assets usually revert to the State of Michigan.
Although there are many advantages to establishing or updating an estate plan, my top three reasons are:
1. It’s much easier on the person(s) administering the estate. I always tell clients that it is their children or other family members who they designate as their Personal Representatives who will ultimately see the benefit of the planning they do now.
2. More control. Creating a comprehensive estate plan allows individuals/couples to decide how they would like their estate to be distributed and who they would like to do that on their behalf. A lifelong building of wealth, however large or small at the time of death, is not something to leave up to default statutory provisions or the Probate Court’s discretion.
3. Less Costly. As with most investments, contributing now will often result in a future return. Think of the old adage “pay me now or pay me later.” Estate plans with a Trust are designed to grow with families, and establishing one now could prevent the future expense of needing to open a probate estate with the court or file for guardianship or conservatorship, all of which cost more than establishing a comprehensive estate plan now.
If you have questions about your individual circumstances, please feel free to call me. I love helping families navigate what can sometimes be a confusing or stressful process and I would love to help yours.